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Staying on budget balance beam
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After a full week off from the 2010 legislative session, the General Assembly convened April 12 for the 34th legislative day.   

With the fiscal year 2011 budget still not passed, the General Assembly still has much work to complete. A balanced budget is a requirement of our state Constitution and one of the most important tasks done every session. This requirement means that the state of Georgia will not spend more than it brings in with revenue. Especially this year, we have had to cut the budget due to decreased incoming revenue.  

Even though our state has grown more than 1 million people, the state of Georgia’s budget has seen a 23 percent cut over the last two years. For the FY11 budget to be completed, the House is still waiting to see if additional revenue resources will be approved by the Senate.  

The Hospital Provider Fee (House Bill 307) was passed by the House. This legislation, if passed by the General Assembly, will generate about $175,000,000 and will be a 1 to 3 match with federal funds for Medicaid. This has a sunset of three years. As it passed the Senate, additional amendments were added. The House ruled the senate amendments were unconstitutional and non germane.  

HB 307 was returned to the Senate for reconsideration.

Update on bills that have passed the House
• Senate Bill 250 was one the first Senate bills that made its way through the House. In its original form, this legislation clarified the “intent requirement” of existing law that states that it is a misdemeanor to disrupt or interfere with the operation of any public school, public school bus or bus stop. SB 250 improves this current statute by asserting that the person must “knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly” disrupt the operation.  
In addition to this clarification, the House added an amendment to SB 250 that addresses the growing problem of school bullying. The amendment will ensure that parents are notified if their child has been bullied or has acted as a bully. It also allows corrective action to be taken at any grade level and requires the Department of Education to develop a model bullying policy for its member schools.

• Another bill seeking to improve our public schools, is Senate Bill 319. This bill broadens the term “textbook” to include digital material, such as computer hardware, software or technical equipment. The purpose of this bill is to allow schools the option to buy and use devices like Kindles, iPads and other types of electronic textbooks.

• Senate Bill 341 places residency requirements on the HOPE GED voucher. This legislation will add consistency to the HOPE Scholarship programs and ensure that these programs only benefit Georgia residents.

• In order to transport students, Senate Bill 392 would require educational institutions that receive state money to verify that motor carriers or contract carriers, such as charter bus services of students, the carrier must first be properly certified by the Public Service Commission or similar certifying agency and second, provide all necessary parties with proof of minimum insurance and valid certification number.

• Senate Bill 297 creates a state-wide alert system know as “Blue Alert.” The system will be activated when a law enforcement officer is killed or seriously injured in the line of duty by a perpetrator who is not in custody. The system also may be activated if a peace officer becomes missing while in the line of duty and the circumstances warrant concern for the officer’s safety.  

In order for the system to be activated, the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation must determine that the agency has not apprehended the suspect, the suspect may be a serious threat to the public, and that sufficient information is available to disseminate to the public that could assist in locating the suspect.

• The House passed House Resolution 1449, urging the Georgia Composite Medical Board to adopt rules and regulations pertaining to office-based surgery. Many minor procedures that require mild sedation can be done in a doctor’s office. However, there are currently no rules or regulations related to sedation. This resolution urges the composite board to adopt rules and regulations regarding medically-accepted standards of patient care and anesthesia.

• Senate Bill 206 will help the General Assembly weigh the economic benefits of existing tax expenditures. Specifically, this legislation will require the Office of Planning and Budget to create an annual report that lists the economic impact of all tax credits, deductions, and exemptions.

This report will then be used by the General Assembly to determine if these credits, deductions, and exemptions are benefiting our economy, as they were intended.

Note: Bills have to be agreed upon by both the House and Senate, then be approved by the governor before they are a Georgia law.

Contact information:
Rep. Ann R. Purcell
Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Suite 504
Atlanta, GA  30334
(404) 656-0188